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Downsizing to a box room

One of the easiest decisions to make was what to do with the quilts; I was moving back home into a single bed so the double spreads were clearly on the ‘dump’ list. My career as a journalist had stalled for a number of reasons and after finally accepting I was running extremely low on sanity, I knew there were only two ways to stop the descent into full-on crazy. Either apathy had to be embraced or a brutal change was in order. Since apathy is only a force for good when deployed against nuisances such as reality tv stars or twerking, I opted to rip up my life and start again.

I decided to concentrate my efforts on the law qualification I’d already started and to get a part-time job while working towards becoming a defence solicitor. Common sense defeated my ego and I realised that, for financial reasons, I needed to lose the independence I’d enjoyed since I went away to university – all 17 years worth of it. The phone call to request bed & board in the family box room was mercifully pain free. The only issue was one of space, as in there wasn’t much of it. Other relatives and friends were kind enough to offer to store what they could but it quickly became apparent I would soon be parting ways with the bulk of my possessions.

It was lucky that since my budget for furniture had largely been restricted to the flat-pack economy range, there were only two items  I was genuinely attached to. A lovely old bookcase and a table I’d  bought under the delusion that even after a long shift at work, it was so beautiful it would make study a pleasure. As it turned out, a polished plank of wood, no matter how interesting the design, does not rejuvenate a frazzled mind. It was great for playing Muppets Monopoly on though. The table was bought by a friend, who did seem disappointed to discover Miss Piggy and Fozzie were not included in the deal. Everything else went to the type of used furniture dealer who car salesmen can only hope to emulate. Perversely, there was something admirable about his vehement insistence that the pittance he offered me was actually a favour – a fit of generosity that could well break his business. Maybe I should have haggled but apart from being short on time, I also strongly suspected the bargain wardrobe, bed and cabinets would not survive the journey to his van.

I made no attempts to sell the woeful contents of my kitchen, they were emptied with ease and a brought sense of peace that I no longer had to feel bad about doing nothing in there other than chill wine. Tackling the bathroom proved to be a puzzling affair though. Why did I boast no less than eight half-used bottles of different shampoos all promising luxurious thickness and volume? Pigeons clearly learn quicker. Why didn’t I thoroughly clean the splattered hair dye from the tiles at the time? When had I ever bothered to use toe-separators?

As I moved on to personal belongings, the non-negotiables on the keep list were my cds, books and prints. The dvds had to go though. So I hauled several large bags worth to a local second hand shop. The ordinarily grumpy owner seemed amused I was downsizing to a box room and gave me a fairer price than I’d expected for sets like The Wire. But I can’t pretend I wasn’t hurt by his lack of enthusiasm for The Complete Dawson’s Creek. I did make a start on sorting through my clothes but resorted to just stuffing them all in bin bags once I saw how small the ‘wear’ pile was. The ‘don’t wear’ pile was colossal and needed to be sub-catagorised into don’t like, too small, too big, too young, too old and the worrying: not mine, I don’t know where it came from.

One of the last tasks was to delve into the numerous ‘stuff’ boxes that had never been unpacked, only added to by the collection of mementos. Or random bits of tat if you want to be cruel about it. Among the contents were a set of highly libellous notes passed between myself and equally restless friends while pretending to revise for A-Levels, dog-eared ticket stubs, long-dead lighters, a copy of the first article I’d ever had published and a plastic yellow duck I’d found nestling on top of my cooker the morning after a particularly heavy leaving do.

Then there was the BMW keyring which I’d appropriated from an otherwise decent bloke I met on holiday in my late teens. He didn’t have a BMW, he didn’t even drive, but he was labouring under the fantasy that merely waving the badge about would impress the ladies. In legal terms, taking it was theft. In moral terms it was an act of mercy.

When everything I owned was either gone or in cases, I felt relief for about ten seconds then the niggling doubts about walking away from a profession I  loved morphed into tsunami strength fear. So I made myself imagine I’d never resigned and that the future was just going to be a continuation of the recent past. That definitely felt much worse and by the time the landlord arrived to collect his keys I was once again filled with determined optimism.

It would be misleading not to mention the fact that this wilful hopefulness took several brutal beatings over the coming months, but that’s another story.


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